From Hermon Hill to the High Road, Terry Townsend outlines where he likes to spend his money and why, in the first of a series of articles offering a resident’s view of shopping in South Woodford. Photography by Geoff Wilkinson
There’s a lot that gives South Woodford its unique identity. Its people are diverse, community-minded and proud. There are good schools and always lots of kids around.
Indeed, South Woodford is one of five recognised district town centres in Redbridge, alongside Wanstead High Street. One of our special features is the range of shopping and services available. All within walking distance. You can get your car repaired, drop off your dry cleaning, visit the post office and builders’ merchant and, of course, you can get your hair cut every 100 yards!
With Westfield, Europe’s biggest shopping mall, a stone’s throw away, you might think a traditional high street the size of South Woodford has had its day. Not a bit of it.
From Hermon Hill to the High Road and George Lane, there is a huge range of shops and services, with many of them being run as independent businesses. And in the heart of George Lane, we have The Galleria, which has a few hidden gems. The opening hours of some of the businesses seem a little odd (this visitor found almost nothing open at 4pm on a Tuesday), but Café on the Lane (180–182 George Lane) serves hearty food with a smile, and the cakes at Heron’s Nest (Unit 7, The Galleria) are delicious. Newly opened is BabyBints (Unit 2a, The Galleria), which also has a range of original, personalised gifts for babies and children.
Children are also well provided for by Sid and Evie’s (174 George Lane), which has some original toys and gifts as well as high-quality clothes. Room 22 (22 Electric Parade) always has some interesting South Woodford themed gifts and Allen’s Pharmacy (19 Electric Parade) nearby sells high-end beauty products, akin to the beauty floor in John Lewis.
Crescendo (160 George Lane) has expanded its musical repertoire to vinyl. On my last visit, the crates were well stacked with a wide variety of high-quality second-hand records. A good 30 minutes’ browsing was repaid by two long-sought purchases.
In terms of cafes, we are well served: Tipi Coffee Co (117 George Lane), Kikirocs (90 George Lane), and the ever-popular Little Woodford Café (118 George Lane) have their own identity and atmosphere and compete well against the national coffee chains (of which we are, apparently, going to get another in the not too distant future). They all sit in the heart of George Lane, among the well-stocked charity shops and home furnishings at either end.
Eating out remains easy. Too many nationalities of cuisine to name here, but the choice is extensive and covers all price brackets. South Woodford is the place to dine and there’s a mix of well-established and newer restaurants. Indian restaurants on the High Road range from the special treats of Grand Trunk Road (219 High Road) and the warmth and great value of the ‘BYOB’ Mohabir (148 High Road). The Gallery (159–161 High Road) is doing well and is a welcoming place to pop into for lobster or just a glass of wine.
A number of chain restaurants help to create the necessary balance for a high street, such as Prezzo, Zizzi and Nando’s – the latter newly opened – and all are busy on a Friday and Saturday night.
All in all, we are spoilt for choice in terms of the services and shops available – a great place to ‘shop local’.